SAN JUAN DE MARCONA, Peru, Jan 9 – Frenchman Sebastien Loeb claimed his first win of the 2018 Dakar Rally in Tuesday’s fourth stage as Peugeot swept the podium in San Juan de Marcona, while Britain’s Sam Sunderland was forced to end his defence of the bikes title through injury.
Loeb finished one minute, 35 secs ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz and over three minutes in front of defending champion Stephane Peterhansel, who remains the overall leader with a near seven-minute advantage over fellow Peugeot driver and compatriot Loeb.
“I’m not going to gain time by losing stages!” said a delighted Loeb. “It was a very good day especially in a very difficult stage, with the dunes and the navigation needed. We’re not complaining!”
Cyril Despres (Peugeot) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota) lost their places in the top three to Loeb and Sainz, who is third and around 13 minutes behind Peterhansel, after a terrible day in the Peruvian desert.
Frenchman Despres had a rear wheel break at 180 km, while Al-Attiyah was forced to stop several times and, unable to race at a normal pace, lost more than 30 minutes.
Reigning bikes champion Sunderland dropped out of this year’s race with a back injury and was taken to Lima for medical checks, allowing Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren to take the overall lead after winning Tuesday’s fourth stage.
Sunderland, riding for KTM and leading the overall rankings coming into Tuesday’s stage, withdrew after injuring his back while entering a jump.
“Forced to abandon this year’s event @Sundersam is receiving medical examinations in Lima, Peru following a crash today on stage four of the @dakar … get well soon Sam,” KTM wrote on Twitter.
Van Beveren finished five minutes ahead of teammate Xavier de Soultrait and seven minutes in front of the Austrian KTM rider Matthias Walkner.
The Yamaha rider takes the lead in the overall standings, 1 minute 55 seconds ahead of Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna).